Articles Posted in Mississippi Supreme Court

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Carl Brady fell and injured himself while roller skating at Extreme Skate Zone in 2009. Extreme Skate Zone was a nonentity owned by Lewis Entertainment, Inc. at the time of Carl’s fall. As a result of the fall, the Bradys sued Oak Grove Skating Rink, Inc., Extreme Skate Zone, and John Does A through Z on the final day of the statute-of-limitations period. Oak Grove, a prior owner of Extreme, had no affiliation with Lewis. The court clerk issued a summons for both Oak Grove and Extreme. A summons was never issued for Lewis, as it was never named as a defendant. In an interlocutory appeal, Lewis Entertainment, Inc., challenged the trial court’s denial of its motion to dismiss based on Carl and Carrie Brady’s failure to serve it timely with process. The Bradys did not name Lewis Entertainment, Inc., as a defendant or to serve it with process. Their repeated attempts knowingly to serve an unrelated entity did not constitute good cause. The Bradys’ case should have been dismissed, and, because the statute-of-limitations period expired in 2012, the dismissal should have been with prejudice. The trial court's order was reversed, and judgment was rendered in favor of Lewis Entertainment, Inc. View "Lewis Entertainment, Inc. v. Brady" on Justia Law

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Charles Blackmon and Dexter Booth sued Malaco, Inc.; N.J. Pockets, Inc.; and Callop Hampton (owner of Hamp’s Place Night Club) on a premises-liability claim. Plaintiffs settled with Malaco. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Hampton. Hampton filed a post-trial motion, requesting the trial court to impose sanctions against Blackmon, Booth, and their attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit and to award attorney fees. The motion was denied, and Hampton appealed that judgment to the Supreme Court. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hampton v. Blackmon" on Justia Law

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While driving one day in 2005, Kathryn Loyacono observed Watacha Shelby backing her car toward Loyacono on the same road. Loyacono brought her vehicle to a stop, but Shelby backed into the front of her vehicle. Following the accident, Loyacono proceeded by ambulance to the emergency room, complaining of neck and back pain. She was released the same day after being diagnosed with a muscle strain. At the time of the accident, Shelby lacked liability insurance, but Loyacono held an uninsured-motorist policy through Travelers Insurance. Accordingly, Loyacono filed suit against Shelby and Travelers, seeking to recover the policy limit of $2.5 million. Prior to trial, the circuit judge entered an order acknowledging that the parties had stipulated that Shelby had proximately caused the accident and that the Travelers policy covered any injuries Loyacono suffered, and proceeded to trial on injury and causation. The jury awarded plaintiff zero dollars. The Mississippi Court of Appeals found that the jury’s determination of damages conflicted with the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The Supreme Court disagreed, but affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision to reverse and remand for a new trial on damages because the trial judge admitted irrelevant and highly prejudicial evidence of the plaintiff’s husband’s income. View "Loyacono v. Travelers Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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After receiving a diagnosis of mesothelioma, Russell Nix filed suit against Union Carbide based on his exposure to its asbestos products. A jury returned a verdict for Nix on his inadequate warning claim, awarded Nix $250,000 in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages. The trial court then awarded Nix nearly $500,000 in attorney’s fees and costs. Union Carbide appealed. Upon review of the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the jury’s award of compensatory damages, reversed the jury’s award of punitive damages, vacated the award of attorney’s fees, and remanded the case for a new trial on punitive damages. View "Union Carbide Corporation v. Nix" on Justia Law

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After observing LaMarcus Butler turn off the lights of his vehicle and make a u-turn in an apparent effort to avoid a police roadblock, police pursued Butler, at varying speeds, until a superior officer instructed him by radio to desist. The fleeing Butler collided with a vehicle occupied by Margaret Stephens, Lee B. Lewis, and Oda Mae Green. Stephens died as a result of the crash, and Lewis and Green suffered severe injuries. Plaintiffs Lewis and Green, individually, and Sonya Stephens, on behalf of Margaret Stephens’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, filed suit against the City of Jackson, Mississippi. Following a bench trial in 2008, the trial court assessed 100% of the fault to the City and entered judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the circuit court’s holding, finding that police had not acted in “reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of persons not engaged in criminal conduct,” and therefore, governmental immunity shielded the City from liability. Plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, asserting that the Court of Appeals: (1) misinterpreted the factors for determining reckless disregard by law enforcement personnel; (2) improperly weighed the evidence on appeal, made credibility determinations, and improperly rejected evidence that supported the findings of the trial court; and (3) improperly substituted its judgment for the trial court’s credibility determination regarding expert testimony. Upon review, the Supreme Court found dispositive the question of whether the Court of Appeals misinterpreted and misapplied case law for determining reckless disregard by law enforcement officers. Finding that the Court of Appeals erred, the Supreme Court reversed its judgment, and reinstated and affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "City of Jackson v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Tom and Consandra Christmas own property neighboring an alligator-infested, waste disposal site owned by Exxon. They sued Exxon, claiming the alligator infestation was a nuisance. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Exxon, based on the statute of limitations and the prior-trespass doctrine. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded based on a factual dispute as to when the Christmases had learned of the alligator infestation. The Supreme Court found Exxon was entitled to summary judgment because it cannot be held liable for the presence of wild alligators on its property. Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment and reinstated and affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Exxon. View "Christmas v. Exxon Mobil Corporation" on Justia Law

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Robert Reeves, an employee of Illinois Central Railroad, sued Mississippi Valley Silica, Inc. for lung injuries that allegedly were caused by his inhalation of silica while employed with Illinois Central. The case was dismissed without prejudice in 2006, and this suit was filed against thirty-two named defendants in 2007. Robert Reeves died in 2010, before the litigation was concluded, and the case then was pursued by his wrongful death beneficiaries. After trial in May 2012 against the sole remaining defendant, Valley, the jury found economic damages in the amount of $149,464.40 and noneconomic damages of $1.5 million, with Valley 15% at fault. The jury also awarded punitive damages of $50,000, and the trial court awarded attorney fees of $257,701.50. Although Valley was found only 15% at fault, the trial court determined that the law in place in 2002, when the original complaint was filed, should have applied. Accordingly, the statutory caps on punitive and noneconomic damages enacted in 2004 were inapplicable and Valley was jointly and severally liable for 50% of the judgment. Ultimately, the court determined that Valley owed the Reeves beneficiaries $824,732.20, plus $50,000 in punitive damages, and $257,701.50 in attorney fees, for a total of $1,132,433.70. Valley appealed. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff failed to present sufficient evidence to identify Valley’s sand as the proximate cause of Robert Reeves’s injuries as a matter of law. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court and rendered judgment in favor of Mississippi Valley Silica. View "Mississippi Valley Silica Company, Inc. v. Reeves" on Justia Law

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Levon Flowers made a workers' compensation claim against his former employer Crown Cork & Seal USA. The Supreme Court granted Crown’s petition for certiorari to review the compensability of a foot injury Flowers sustained in 2007. The Workers’ Compensation Commission denied Flowers’s request for permanent disability benefits for this injury and awarded temporary total disability benefits for the period between the injury and the date Flowers was cleared by his doctor to return to work. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Flowers was entitled to receive temporary total disability benefits until he reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) for his foot injury, which had not yet been determined by his doctors. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals reached the correct result in this case, but the Supreme Court reached that conclusion based on different precedent. The record in this case reflected that Crown refused to reinstate or rehire Flowers after his doctors released him to return to work. There was also evidence that Flowers underwent an unsuccessful search for alternative employment after Crown refused to rehire him. However, the ALJ and the Commission did not determine when Flowers reached MMI for his foot injury. From the testimony of Flowers' doctor, Flowers had not yet reached MMI as of January 14, 2008. Therefore, this case was not controlled by the Court's holding in "Jordan:" "[the Court] reiterate[d] that it is a primary duty of the Commission to analyze the evidence and determine whether and when a claimant has reached MMI. [. . .] After determining when Flowers reached MMI for his foot injury, the Commission must decide from the evidence presented whether Flowers is entitled to permanent disability benefits." View "Flowers v. Crown Cork & Seal USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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After suffering a severe electrical shock while working as a lineman for Tippah Electric Power Association, Lonnie Smith filed a petition to controvert with the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission. Tippah denied that Smith's claim was compensable and raised the affirmative defense that Smith had intentionally injured himself. The administrative judge (AJ) found that Smith had intentionally injured himself and that his injury was not compensable; the Commission affirmed the AJ's denial of the claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's decision. The Supreme Court granted certiorari because it found that the Commission's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case to the Commission for a determination of benefits. View "Smith v. Tippah Electric Power Association" on Justia Law

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Michael Crawford sued defendants Alex Jordan, Morris Transportation, and Custom Sign Company (Custom) based on a motor vehicle accident. Initially, Crawford filed a petition to perpetuate testimony to depose Jordan and Morris Transportation in an attempt to identify any additional defendants. The case was removed to federal court. After removal, Crawford filed a complaint in federal court. Crawford subsequently was granted leave from the federal court to file a complaint in the Circuit Court of Coahoma County against Jordan, Morris, and Custom. The case was later dismissed by the federal court based on premature removal since removal occurred before Crawford had filed a complaint. Thereafter, Crawford filed an amended complaint in circuit court, styled as a separate cause of action. Defendants then moved to have both the original complaint and first amended complaint dismissed based on the argument that the federal-court action was dismissed rather than remanded, which would bar Crawford from proceeding on either complaint in circuit court. Alternatively, Defendants asserted that the suit was barred by the general three-year statute of limitations. Defendants also alleged that the one-year savings statue did not apply because the federal court granted Crawford's voluntary motion to dismiss, which was not a dismissal for a matter of form in accordance with Mississippi Code Section 15-1-69. The trial court granted Defendants' motion to dismiss with prejudice, and Crawford appealed. The Supreme Court reversed the dismissal, finding that the federal court's dismissal was for a matter of form (lack of subject-matter jurisdiction). The Mississippi Supreme Court also found that the original complaint filed during Crawford's leave from federal court was a nullity, since the case ultimately was dismissed rather than remanded by the federal court. Nevertheless, the first amended complaint was filed after the federal court's dismissal; therefore, it was deemed valid and timely filed within one year after the dismissal; thus the savings statute applied. Accordingly, the case was remanded. On remand, Crawford settled with Jordan and Morris Transportation. Custom filed its answer and motion for summary judgment, submitting that Crawford's claims were barred by the statute of repose. The trial court granted Custom's motion based on the statute of repose being applicable. Crawford unsuccessfully moved for reconsideration, and thereafter appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing: (1) the statute of repose does not apply in this case; or alternatively, (2) Custom waived the right to such defense. Finding this cause of action should be reversed and remanded for further factual determinations regarding the applicability of the statute of repose, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in granting summary judgment when genuine issues of material fact existed and needed resolution before ruling out the statute of repose argument. View "Crawford v. Custom Sign Company" on Justia Law